Five things we learned from Kentucky laying the smack down on Vanderbilt
There was some fear that the game at Vandy could be a trap game for Kentucky after a big win against Kansas. It turns out that the only trap was when Vandy walked onto the court and got absolutely mauled by the Wildcats. It was the most impressive half of basketball that the Cats have played all season long. Here are my takeaways from the beat down.
- It is all falling into place for PJ Washington- He has flashed his talent throughout stretches in his first year and a half in Lexington but he is beginning to do it more consistently. In his last three games he is averaging 22.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. He has also made 50% of his 3-point shots while averaging 4 attempts per game. He is the first player with back-to-back 20-10 games since Julius Randle did it three times in November of 2013. PJ is a match-up nightmare for opposing teams because of his ability to shoot the ball from outside as well as being able to put the ball on the floor and score in the paint. If he can completely unlock his game and continue to play like he has recently it will go a long way towards getting this team to the Final Four.
- The switch has flipped for this team- You never know exactly when the light bulb will go on for a team but I feel confident in saying that it has happened. That does not mean they have peaked by any means but it means they are beginning to figure out how to tap into their potential. They will still go through some growing pains over the coming month but they may take less losses than what I thought they would a few weeks ago.
- Nick Richards showed a glimpse of why he is so important for this team- He scored 14 points and looked impressive in the post but more importantly he was a rim protector and blocked 4 shots. He has blocked 9 shots in the last two games and seems to be finding his role on the team. The one thing that Cal needs for him to do more consistently is to rebound the basketball. If Nick can start doing that it will allow Cal to play him 15-20 minutes a game depending on how the game is going. I am a big believer in Nick Richards and his insane potential. If he can get things to start clicking for him it will be absolutely huge for Kentucky.
- Cal may be right that this is his best shooting team- They drained 10 3’s last night and not one of them came from Tyler Herro. They have a host of players that are capable of knocking down shots beyond the arc. If they can build confidence and develop a reputation as a team that you must defend from 3 it will open up the offense in a very big way. I guess this Calipari guy might know what he is talking about after all…
- The bench showed how good they can be- After going scoreless against Kansas they had 30 points in the win over Vanderbilt. Jemarl Baker showed off his pure shot by draining both his 3-point attempts. Immanuel Quickley scored 6 on a made 3 and an old fashioned 3 point play. EJ Montgomery had 4 points, blocked a shot and picked up 2 assists on very nice lobs to Nick Richards. As previously mentioned, Richards chipped in 14 points and blocked 4 shots. Having a bench that is full of guys that are capable of contributing and making plays when they are in the game is huge. Not many teams if any have the depth that this team has. That could be huge in March.
All in all it was an impressive showing by Kentucky. They will have a tougher road test on Saturday when they head to Florida to face the Gators. A loss would not shock me but after how they played last night the Cats should be a favorite in the game. Let me close with a four word summary of last nights game. I like my team.